Tuesday, January 14, 2014

About I love Lucy backstage...

Marc Daniels, who all of the first season's 35 episodes, says: "We began I Love Lucy using four cameras because they wanted to do the entire first half of the show without stopping," Daniels continued. "We had four Fearless dollies, four dolly grips, four camera assistants, two booms, two dolly grips for the booms, and a few cable men. You can imagine what that floor looked like."
After the first season, Daniels moved on to direct other shows. William Asher, who would later produce 285 episodes, and direct 200 episodes himself of another television classic, Bewitched, came on board.

William Asher's first day on the set though nearly ended his association with the show. They had begun rehearsal and Asher had to walk away for a bit to attend to some technical matters. When he returned, he discovered that Lucille Ball had been giving directions backstage. Asher was astonished.

"I said, 'Lucy, there's only one director. I'm it. If you would like to direct, then don't pay me and send me home,' " Asher said. "When I said that (I didn't say it in a nice way, by the way), she began to cry and ran off the stage. Everybody disappeared. Desi hadn't been in the scene. I didn't know where to go because I had no office. So, I went to the men's bathroom, sat on the toilet and didn't know what the hell to do. I realized I'd blown my first day of what was really a pretty good job.
"I sat there for a long time and finally got up and went back to the stage," he continued. "Desi was there. He was furious. He was cussing me out in Spanish and I didn't know what he was saying. I settled him down and said, 'Look, Desi, here's what happened.' And he said, 'Well, you're absolutely right, Bill. What you should do is go in to Lucy's dressing room. She's crying. Go talk to her and settle this thing.' So that's what I did. I went in. I said I was sorry I upset her. And she was crying and I started to cry. And after a while we went back to work. But I'll tell you this. I never had trouble from her after that. She had her opinion, and would offer it, but nothing ever behind my back. Everything was just fine. That's the way it was for the next five years."
Asher said there was very little ad libbing because the material was strong and they'd had time to rehearse. "On Monday morning we would read the material, discuss it and make changes. In the afternoon, I would start rehearsing and continue rehearsing Tuesday and Wednesday when the cameras came in. On Thursday, we'd rehearse again with cameras about half the day. Then we would do a dress rehearsal. Later that day, we'd do the show."
(I've read, by the way, many times (also said by Lucy), that the weekly show goes before the cameras at  8 o'clock Friday evenings, (After dinner, company and cast return to the stage, and there follows a general "talk through" of the show. At this time, further suggestions are considered and decisions made on any remaining problems, so that by 8 o'clock the company is ready to film the show.) and is photographed entirely the same evening, the preceding four days are employed by the company in rehearsals, pre-production planning and script revision. the camera crews have but two schedules in the five-day period -- on Thursday and Friday. Just saying, lol) 
Rehearsals were vital because they were shooting film. At the time there were no monitors for the director to see the image. The show's quality depended on his ability to watch the floor and ensure that all cameras and actors hit their marks at the required moments. Precision was crucial, as nobody wanted to halt the performance in front of an audience. They rarely shot pick-ups, Asher said, and when they did it was usually for a guest star who forgot a line. Most shows were filmed in around thirty minutes.
"We had stops for Lucy's big costume changes, but that was all," Asher said. "I had a pretty strict rule on that. We didn't stop for anything. We played it like a Broadway show. If an actor made a mistake or forgot a line or something like that, it was up to the other actor to get him out of it."

The editing of I Love Lucy brought another major innovation to television. Desi said that when he first sat down to watch the film, he found it very confusing to look at only one camera's footage on a Moviola. He asked why he couldn't see the film from all three cameras at the same time. He was told that this was the only way — one camera's film at a time. Desi pushed the issue and asked, "Why can't you just stick three Moviolas together?" So the production team contacted Moviola's president, Mark Serrurier, son of Iwan Serrurier who had created Moviola in 1924. 

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